Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

A few years ago there was a poem about parenting a child with disabilities floating around on the web.  I think even Dear Abby included it in her column.  Many parents raved about it, and it was forwarded and repackaged all over the place on disability web sites and discussion boards.

Dianne and I both thought it was dumb.  Believe me when I say how happy I was that my wife and I agreed about that one!

So, we were left in an awkward place – what do you say when parents of other disabled kids are the ones forwarding it to you?  And how do you respond to this ‘wonderful’ poem when people without disabled children also forwarded it to us?

Unlike what was happening to me at church with people persistently quoting John 9, this was merely irritating.  I would smile and nod and change the subject.  Or not reply to the email.  It just didn’t do anything for me.

But even here, God was displaying his mercy.  Our Paul was uniquely made, and so were we.  Some people found that poem helpful, even life changing.  We did not, but we could respect that others did.  The people who knew us and loved us specifically usually did not send us things like this.  The ones who did not know us sent it with the intention to be helpful.

Most of all, it pointed to how Jesus knows us absolutely.  Pastor John helpfully explained that knowledge in his recent sermon, Healed for the Sake of Holiness from John 5:

When you know Jesus, this is the kind of person you know. A person who knows you perfectly—knows everything about you, inside and out, and all you have ever felt or thought or done. “You discern my thoughts from afar. . . . Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether” (Psalms 139:2-4). The more you know about Jesus, the more precious this truth becomes.

This same Jesus used a poem by Martha Snell Nicholson to bring great comfort to my wife.  I found that poem beautiful as well, but not transforming like she did.  Jesus used my anger at people quoting John 9 to reveal much more about himself than I would have otherwise.  He really does know what’s going to work and what isn’t, and when, and under what circumstances – because he is sovereign over all things.

Still, if you come across a ‘great’ poem or story or situation, pause just for a moment before sending it on.  Will this story help them treasure Jesus more?  Will this poem reveal the goodness of God in all circumstances?  Will it help put into real perspective what they are dealing with?

If you’re not sure, I would err on the side of action and send it – the Holy Spirit has used all kinds of things to reveal who God is to us!  But if your second thought is, “this really isn’t all that useful,” you’ll know what not to do in this case.  Or maybe God will reveal something even more helpful and useful for you to share, honoring your desire to help a family in need even before you ask for it.

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Dianne’s post yesterday on Pastor John’s reading of a poem highlighted several things that are helpful for parents of children with disabilities:

  1. We still long for and love beautiful things.  The intensity and the chaos and feelings of being overwhelmed by everything that is associated with disability do not (entirely) crowd out our appreciation for soul-enriching nourishment that comes from art and music and books and good conversation.
  2. The Holy Spirit is powerful in his ability to use things like God-centered poetry to make much of God and help us see who God really is.  I believe the key words here are ‘God-centered.’
  3. Dianne was touched by it because she was able to hear the sermon!  This meant that somebody else was caring for Paul at that moment.   The love and care provided to us as parents when people care for our children, as highlighted here, allows for many other important things to happen.

We should not be surprised that God would provide such good gifts.  The writer of Ecclesiastes embeds this powerful and wonderful statement about God, beauty, creation, and sovereignty as he teaches:

(God) has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. Ecclesiastes 3:11-14

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Guest Post from Dianne Knight:

Pastor John read this poem during a sermon.  When I first heard it I cried because it made me think of how God is really in control of everything and how he loves us personally and acts in our lives specifically and for specific reasons. Also, because of this poem I learned a bit about Martha Snell Nicholson, the author, and her life story is very inspiring too.

The Thorn
(a “mendicant” is a beggar)

I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne
And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, “But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.”
He said, “My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.”
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.

–Martha Snell Nicholson

(Note: This poem was read during Pastor John’s 2001 Sermon, “To Be a Mother is a Call to Suffer.“)

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